Resident and Tourist Perception of People, Towns and Amenities in Fringe Settings

Carol Kline1[1], Lauren Duffy2 and Dana Clark1

1 Walker College of Business, Department of Management, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA; 2Clemson University,College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, Clemson, South Carolina, USA


Rural and urban have often been treated as dichotomous categories in which scholars can conceptualize differences between communities, whether looking at population and demographics, employment and occupations, migration patterns, social mobility or environmental factors and the like. However, with recent trends in urbanization, the rural-urban divide is not always a relevant construct in many contexts (Champion and Hugo, 2004). From a geographic perspective, there is the ever increasing urbanization of landscapes on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, often fuelled by residential development beyond the suburbs. Known as ex- urbia, peri-urban or urban-rural fringe communities (henceforth, ‘fringe communities’), these were some of the fastest growing areas in the US with primarily white, upper- to middle-income commuters moving to them (Berube et al., 2006). The peak growth for fringe communities in the US was before the 2008/09 economic recession, which came with the mortgage crisis and high fuel costs that led to an influx of residents back to city centres (Wiltz, 2015). However, stabilization of the housing market, low interest loans and affordable home costs have led to yet another rise in these communities (Wiltz, 2015).

The notion of fringe communities that are defined neither as urban nor rural is being expanded to include not only commuter communities, but rural communities that are becoming a hub for second-home development

(Timothy, 2005; Koster et al., 2010), as well as a destination for relocatees and retirees, where the contrasts between existing and new residents are distinct. Thus, moving beyond the geographic aspects of the diminishing rural-urban division, it is also important to address the sociological implications of dual community identities. Moreover, there is an explicit need to recognize the role of tourism in creating layered identities in these communities where it is both a factor that contributes to the rapid growth of land and business development, and a mechanism for new residential growth when tourists relocate to the area permanently (Weaver and Lawton, 2001; Weaver, 2005). This raises important questions related to how residents perceive their community identity. Are there differences in perceptions towards the community and its residents across different social groups and socio-demographic variables? And further, what role do tourism amenities play in the larger scheme of community identity and quality of life?

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